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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

New Year's Eve in Times Square

Aired December 31, 2003 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us live tonight, Hugh Hefner, in a bevy of bunnies poolside at the Playboy Mansion. Cyndi Lauper drops by to help us count down to a new year. We'll rap with Wyclef Jean about the best of the year in music and what to listen for in '04.
Rock the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) The Flaming Lips perform live. New York City's mayor joins us live in Times Square on keeping the biggest party safe. New York may drop the ball, but Key West drops the drag queen. And we'll circle the globe for New Year's celebrations worldwide.

Hey, good evening. Thanks for joining us. I'm Anderson Cooper, live in New York City Times Square. They call this place the crossroads of the world. And tonight, it certainly feels like that hundreds of thousands of people are here right now to ring in the New Year. Authorities predicted as many as 750,000 people may show up.

In the crowd, there are thousands of police officers in uniform, as well as under cover. There are snipers are rooftops in the skies above, Blackhawk helicopters on the ground. However among the thousands of revelers, there is little fear. Most people you talk to say they would not miss this night for anything.

At 11:59, in less than one hour, that big crystal ball back there will slowly begin to descend. At the stroke of midnight, there's going to be fireworks, confetti and a scene well like no place on earth. And we want you to stay with us all throughout. We were going to bring it to you all live as it happens.

In the next 90 minutes, we're also going to take you to Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Boston and cities around the world. Plus, we're going to bring you some of the best music of 2003.

Now they call Times Square the crossroads of war of the worlds. Some people, Ben Stein, signed calls it the capital of American capitalism. There is always neon lights here. There's always brightness. But tonight, you can see it for yourself. The crowd is pumped up. They've been waiting for hours. The party hats are on. And while there's not alcohol being served here, they all seem very, very festive indeed. There's performers playing right now. My buddy Jason Carroll is down in the crowd.

Jason, how's it looking?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it's looking good down here, I got to tell you, Anderson. These people have been out here for a very long time, waiting for the big moment. Security concern for some, but not for these people who came out here from all over. They came from Brazil, England, Iowa back there, Canada over here, more folks from England over here. And these folks here from Taiwan. They came from all over the place, Anderson, all just to be on your show. We've got one of the best seats in the house. So I'm going to be down here with these guys all night long, as we ring in the New Year. We're waiting to have a good time. Everyone out here is saying they've waited all of these hours. We're going to wait for that big old ball to drop. And it can't come soon enough -- Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Jason. We'll check back with you in a moment. Across the country, of course, families and friends have gathered together, all to herald the new year. We're going to be taking you to a lot of parties in the next 90 minutes.

Right now, let's go to Los Angeles poolside at the Playboy Mansion and check in with the original old school of playa himself, Hugh Hefner. Hugh, is the party hopping tonight? How's it going?

HUGH HEFNER, PLAYBOY: How are you? I think you're a little further along than we are. We're just getting started.

COOPER: Well, it looks. Well we're glad to be there. Who's going to be there tonight at the Playboy Mansion?

HEFNER: Well, a lot of celebrities and centerfolds and a good many friends. They're just beginning to arrive. We're -- it's 8:00 here now. So we're just getting started.

COOPER: Now Hugh, I hope some of your girlfriends are going to be there tonight. Are they?

HEFNER: Oh, yes. They'll all be here. And we'll see them...

COOPER: How many...

HEFNER: Huh?

COOPER: How many do you have right now?

HEFNER: Well, six regulars, but they'll be a lot of other good friends, girlfriends and other here as well. We'll have about 1,000 people.

COOPER: Now is there a chance you're going to end up in the grotto?

HEFNER: There's always a possibility.

COOPER: It's the grotto of course at the Playboy Mansion, from what I've heard is legendary. That's where a lot of -- well, I'm not even sure really what goes on there. It's probably best not to ask, because we are a family program, after all.

But Hugh, we're going to be checking in with -- go ahead. HEFNER: Well, I was just going to say it's like what they say about Las Vegas these days. What happens in the grotto stays in the grotto.

COOPER: It's probably best. Have you ever been to Times Square for New Year's Eve, Hugh?

HEFNER: I've been to Times Square, but not on New Year's Eve. I imagine it's a little chilly there.

COOPER: It's a little chilly, but it's a great party. And I'm sure you're going to have a great party tonight. We're going to check into it a little bit later with you. It's always good to talk to you. We'll talk to you soon.

HEFNER: And it's my pleasure.

COOPER: All right, Hugh, we'll talk to you soon. Now one of the reasons so many people come to Times Square on this night, of course, is because the city pulls out all the stops. Hey, they're playing Beyonce right now. There are free hats. There are free performances. There's free music here playing. We're going to bring it all to you live.

Cyndi Lauper is performing in just about 15 minutes. She's also going to be conducting a sing-a-long, believe it or not. I helped Cyndi warm up her vocal chords just a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: How exciting is it to perform in Times Square?

CYNDI LAUPER, SINGER: It's incredible. I think that it's so great to party with the people. I came here when I was 18 years old and parties with everybody. And we went -- I told you -- we went to Mama Leone's and we went on a carriage ride, horse and buggy, and then...

COOPER: You had the New York experience.

LAUPER: Well, now you know, at that point, I was living on Long Island. I was a city kid who moved out East, trying to find -- usually they run away in the big city. I went and ran away to suburbia, but it wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

COOPER: You have a six-year old son. Is he staying up late to watch you perform?

LAUPER: No. Oh, no, no, no. He's hopefully getting back on his schedule since school's coming. And you know, when they don't' have great days if they don't get the right sleep.

COOPER: What are you going to perform tonight?

LAUPER: I'm going to perform off of the music of the last CD, my new CD... COOPER: I actually own it. It's a great CD.

LAUPER: Thank you. It was fun making it.

COOPER: It's different music for you. I mean, it sort of standard, as a lot of people call that.

LAUPER: No, it's kind of like standards. It's our standards, right? You know, it's classic songs from the '50s and the '60s. And if you like an older song, I sang with Tony Bennett. You know, in my house when I was growing up, Tony Bennett was being played night and day. So it was a trip to actually sing with him.

COOPER: Now tonight, you're going to have a massive sing-along with everyone here in Times Square. How is that going to work?

LAUPER: Oh, I don't know. We'll work it out. I'll see what everybody's up to. And if they're into it, we'll go there. We always go there.

COOPER: You know, there has been a lot of talk about security fears this year. Do you have any concern at all?

LAUPER: No. No, not tonight. I don't. I feel -- well, there's a lot of security around. I think that it's very sensible. There aren't people totally trashed, you know. And they're just here to have a good time. And you know, it's funny when you're standing in a crowd, you're warmer. And I think it's great. I think it's really great.

COOPER: Well, it's good, because I was very close to wearing a jacket very similar to this one.

LAUPER: Well, you really...

COOPER: And I'm didn't, so I'm glad. I'm glad I didn't. Well, good luck tonight. It was really a pleasure to meet you.

LAUPER: Thank you.

COOPER: Take care. All right, Cyndi Lauper, thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, Cyndi Lauper's going to be performing in just about 15 minutes. We're going to try to bring it out to you live as well. There are just hundreds of thousands of people here in Times Square. At this point, it's too early to tell exactly how many. Authorities said maybe as many 750,000. That's what they had prepared for. Tens of thousands of police -- thousands of police officers in uniform as well as undercover. The whole crowd is very peaceful. We've heard of very incidences. It's very controlled. You know, the old days people used to bring alcohol here in Times Square. All that is done away with. You're looking at some police officers now just patrolling the streets. New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg is going to be here in just a few moments. We're going to talk about security because it has been very much in the news of late. But as you look at the crowds right now, right now people are just looking to have some fun. They're playing music from speakers all throughout Times Square. So no matter where you are, even though you may not be very close to where the ball will actually drop from, from One Times Square. You get to hear it. You get to feel part of the party.

They've also handed out -- one company has handed out these orange hats. So a lot of people are -- I mean -- it -- when you look at the crowd, it is a sea of orange hats. And there is the ball right there. It is a beautiful Waterford crystal ball. At 11:59, it is slowly going to begin to descend 60 feet in case -- 60 seconds, I should say. 77 feet as it comes down that pole.

It's become a tradition here since 1907. That's when the ball first drops. The first fireworks here in Times Square, then it was called Long Acre Square, started in 1904. And One Times Square building, the building where the ball will drop, was actually a building of "The New York Times," a newspaper was in. And to celebrate their incorporation in 1904, they sponsored fireworks from the top of the building. And that is how all of this began.

And as you can see the crowds are just amazing, a lot of people just looking to have a good time. And that is what they are having here tonight.

(MUSIC)

It is quite a crowd here. The -- it's interesting. The people have been cordoned off into different sections. And they're sort of hemmed in as you can see, one of the barriers there. And that's the way the police really try to control the crowds. And the crowd control here, you need a pass to really get anywhere through the area. But it is all very orderly. It is all very controlled. And as well, safety is on everyone's mind. Fun is as well. And a lot of people, as you can see, having a lot of fun tonight.

I'm joined right now by New York's City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg (UNINTELLIGIBLE) joining us tonight.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: Thank you. Happy New Year.

COOPER: I got to ask you. In the news this afternoon, congressman from Connecticut, Chris Shays, said that you had to be a fool to be in Times Square on this night on this day. Do you feel foolish being here?

BLOOMBERG: Well, regardless of what the congressman said, who knows what he said, it is a wonderful place to be. It's a safe place to be. We're going to have a record crowd tonight.

We have people with still 45 minutes left to go. We have people going all -- into Central Park. We've never had a crowd this big. People are getting along. And that's because Americans want to look to the future. They're not going to let the terrorists (UNINTELLIGIBLE) us. New Yorkers, in particular, because the war is starting here on 9/11, they understand that the freedoms that we have are freedoms that are worth fighting for.

And we have young men and women overseas in Iraq, in Afghanistan, around the world fighting for us today. And we're going to celebrate. And that's what those soldiers and sailors and airmen want us to do.

COOPER Well, maybe next year, Congressman Shays will actually decide to join here in Times Square.

BLOOMBERG: I said to him I'd love to have him down here. And no hard feelings. You know, I don't know what he's said or what he meant to say. And listen, we all say things. But the fact of the matter is that he's a good congressman. And happy to have him as a visitor to New York.

I said it to you earlier on television, love to have you come down. He can stand up here to meet with me today and help drop the ball. Maybe next year.

COOPER: All right, a very political answer at that. What sort of security precautions are in place here tonight?

BLOOMBERG: Well, there's a lot that you see and a lot that you don't. We're doing everything we do when a president comes to town. We do everything we do when you have a large number of people together. And both those things tonight will keep everybody safe.

COOPER: And he said a lot we don't see. I mean, there are helicopters in the sky. There are people on rooftops.

BLOOMBERG: Oh, there's a person standing next to you, maybe an undercover top. You never know. And you know, but the truth of the matter is no amount of police can keep us truly safe. It's the public that keeps us safe. The public here wants everybody to get along.

New York City is the most diverse city in the world. 40 percent of the people that live here were born outside the United States. And they get along. And that's what's going to happen anyplace else.

COOPER: All right, your New Year's resolution, I got to ask. Do you have one?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I'm always worrying about my waistline and trying to work harder. The usual stuff. It's going to be a great year.

COOPER: Just like everybody else, all right.

BLOOMBERG: Just like everybody else. And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) flaws as everybody else's.

COOPER: Thanks for being with us here.

BLOOMBERG: Happy New Year.

COOPER: I appreciate it. All right, in places large and small around the world, they have started to mark the start of New Year's. There have been fireworks and festivities around the globe. Let's take a look at some of the places that it already 2004 in. We'll take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one!

(FIREWORKS)

(CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy New Year, America!

(MUSIC)

(FIREWORKS)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, the faces are different. So are the languages, but the message is still the same. Happy New Year from around the world. We still have a lot ahead of us before the ball drops here in Times Square. They're getting ready to drop a drag queen in Key West, Florida. We're going to hear what's behind those preparations. You'll see that live.

Plus, a new millennium sing-along. Cyndi Lauper's going to lead Times Square in the ultimate karaoke, a live performance. Also tonight, from The Flaming Lips, that's all ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, everybody, we're The Flaming Lips. Join us. We're going to be bringing in the new year live somewhere here in Chicago. Here we go. It's going to be great. Woo-ee! Oh, no.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That is the scene right now at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, where indie rock fans are ushering in the new year with a dream ticket, The Flaming Lips, followed by the White Stripes. We're going to bring you a live performance by The Flaming Lips, coming up very shortly.

Right here in New York City, the ball dropping -- came pedestrian -- in comparison to some places. Right now, you're looking at a live picture of Cyndi Lauper, as she has just finished performing one song "At Last." Let's just listen in a little bit.

LAUPER: I'm going to ask (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to this song. I love this. Hit it.

(SINGING) COOPER: It is an open air party here live in New York City Times Square, where the crowds are waiting for the ball to drop. Cyndi Lauper is performing.

Now New York City's ball drop may seem pedestrian in comparison to what goes on in Key West, Florida, where at the stroke of 12:00, a drag queen named Sushi will drop from the top of the Bourbon Street Pub inside a giant red high heeled shoe. Makes you feel good to live in America, doesn't it?

CNN's John Zarrella joins us live from the Conch Republic, Key West, Florida. John, how's the party?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. Well, you know, if you can't be in Times Square, you might as well be down here in the southern most city of Key West. We're down here on Duvall Street. I've got Kylie and Colby here, two of my favorite drag queens. And in about 40 -- you can tell I'm flushed -- in about 40 minutes, we are going to have Sushi up there in that red high heel descending down here onto the street, out of the slipper, down to the street. It's a real treat here in Key West.

About 30,00 tourists are down here for all the events. Several thousand right here where we are. And as I said, you can tell, I'm really getting flushed, Anderson, with my two. So I think I'm going to send it back to you -- Anderson?

COOPER: Yes, I'm not sure I want to see what happens next there, John. All right, let's talk to the lady, who I think it's fair to say, has the biggest shoe on the block right now in Key West.

Sushi, happy new year. How's the party going, Sushi?

SUSHI, THE LADY IN THE SHOE: Oh, it's doing fabulous, darling. We love it down here in Key West. You guys certainly (UNINTELLIGIBLE) join us for New Year's Eve.

COOPER: Well now, Sushi, explain what is going to happen there at the stroke of midnight, because you are sitting in a giant eight foot red shoe. Why?

SUSHI: It is an eight foot shoe, but we are going to be dropping down about 10 feet. And we're going to be celebrating in the only way we can, because we only have high heels on, the way that we should. It's only one human family, darling.

COOPER: Now, Sushi, I understand this tradition started like six years ago, but that first time where you were going...

SUSHI: Yes.

COOPER: ...to be dropped in the shoe, you didn't have a permit for it. What happened?

SUSHI: Oh, the police came. The mayor came. Joey Schroeder of Bourbon Street Pub organized it with Jimmy Gilleran (ph). And they almost arrested me. Actually, they took me down off the shoe the first year and put me in a car.

COOPER: Goodness, well that sounds terrible, but...

SUSHI: And then almost took away.

COOPER: ...this year, you have a permit. And you are in the shoe poised to be dropped at the stroke of midnight. We'll try to come back to you. Sushi, good luck. I hope you don't get injured in this very dramatic shoe drop.

SUSHI: Oh, thank you.

COOPER: All right.

SUSHI: And there's thing Andy we say, you are just adorable. You are just adorable, darling.

COOPER: Well, thank you, Sushi.

SUSHI: And next year, come down.

COOPER: All right, well, thanks very much.

SUSHI: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: That's Sushi in Key West, Florida. We'll try to check in with her a little bit later on. I don't know.

Every weekday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, I have a program on CNN called "360." So we asked our viewers to write in and tell us how they were going to celebrate the new year. If their party sounded fun, we promised we would attend.

Now a lot of viewers responded. And we appreciate that. A lot of the parties sounded fun, except for the one with the latex body suit and the chain mail armor, but I don't want really want to go into that tonight.

We finally picked a party. And CNN's Kendis Gibson is there in Elma, New York.

Kendis, who's giving the party?

KENDIS GIBSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it is a mother of three here in Elma, New York, holding the party. I'm sure you know where Elma, New York is. By the way, it is about 30 minutes outside of Buffalo, New York. And it's really a quiet suburb formally. So you can see that these folks are actually already partying quite a bit here, and trying to give the folks there in Times Square a run for their money.

And the reason that we're here is because (UNINTELLIGIBLE) wrote us an e-mail and said that he was having the Trifecta party and good bye -- good luck. And a congratulations party. Why -- why did you write in?

SANDY, VIEWER: I wanted to take a chance and see if I could get a special party here (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

GIBSON: Yes. And he's joining in Special Forces, correct?

SANDY: Yes, he is. He's going into Special Forces in January so.

GIBSON: When you first found out that we were going to come out here, all the way to Elma, New York, which we're -- cows outnumber people, I'm told, what was your first reaction?

SANDY: Oh, I was excited. I just couldn't wait to tell him. And I couldn't wait to tell our friends. And oh, we've just been so excited for two days here now.

GIBSON: Yes, well that's great. Well, Sandy, thank you so much for having us out here. And Anderson, I should point out that, you know, since we mentioned that we were going to come out here, she's been on the TV stations. She has been in the newspaper, the front page of the newspaper. It really has been an amazing turnaround for her -- Anderson?

COOPER: I understand they're going to have karaoke there a little bit later on. So we'll check in with you a little bit, Jason Carroll, thanks very much.

Now setting the beat for 2004, Wyclef Jean is here to talk about music in the old year and the new year. We're going to talk with him in just a moment. Also, fanning the flames in the Windy City. We're going to live with The Flaming Lips in Chicago. That's a live picture right now. Plus, the life of the Playboy party. We'll check in again with Hugh Hefner. We'll be back live from Times Square.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: That was one of the most popular songs of 2003. Also one of the most popular videos. The group, of course, is Outkast. We are -- we're doing a lot of partying ourselves here right now tonight.

Joining me now is the legendary music performer, producer, a musician. The guy is just an all around artist. He's already in the groove, Wyclef Jean. We are pleased that he joins us.

It's pretty cool here at night.

WYCLEF JEAN, MUSICIAN: Definitely. A shout out to all my innocent people. 200 years of independent. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

COOPER: I know, that's Creole for "What's happening?"

JEAN: Yes, yes, that's right. What's happening.

COOPER: You know, it's the only little bit of Creole I know.

JEAN: All right, it's all good, baby.

COOPER: So 2003's been an amazing year for music. JEAN: Yes.

COOPER: Who really stands out?

JEAN: Man, Outkast stands out. You know, when they did the video, the Hey Young video...

COOPER: Great video.

JEAN: ...with the Rock and Roll, Our Future, I was definitely feeling that.

COOPER: And you think 2004 is going to be all about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) music?

JEAN: Man, I think music is definitely moving towards (UNINTELLIGIBLE.) You know, I love Alicia Keyes, you know, and Jason Fann, (UNINTELLIGIBLE.) I think what we're seeing with hip-hop and rock and reggae, reggae been real big this year. I think the Fusion is definitely getting...

COOPER: Your favorite artist of all time is Bob Marley, right?

JEAN: Yes, Bob Marley's my favorite.

COOPER: And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) reuniting with the (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

JEAN: Man, I hope so. You know what I'm saying? Matter of fact, happy new year to all the Fugees.

COOPER: All right.

JEAN: Yes, yes.

COOPER: Well are you going to some fabulous party after this?

JEAN: You know, we're going to party after this, man. You actually -- I'm going to go a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) off party.

COOPER: Oh, yes?

JEAN: They're going to have some Compa (ph) music. So you're welcome to come.

COOPER: Well, that would be cool.

JEAN: All right.

COOPER: All right, it's a real pleasure to meet you.

JEAN: All right, take care, baby.

COOPER: I'm a big fan of yours.

JEAN: All right, cool. Thank you. COOPER: Wyclef Jean. Well the excitement is building all over the place here tonight. We're going to implant ourselves into Playboy Mansion yet again. Can't leave that party without checking back in. Did I just say the word implant? Probably not a good word to use, referencing the Playboy Mansion. And for romantics, we're going to look at some memorable lip locks, midnight and otherwise, because there are going to be a lot of lip locks here in the crowd tonight.

And speaking of lips, we're going to live to Chicago for a performance from the Grammy award winning band, The Flaming Lips. And we're all live from Times Square to drop the ball. We'll bring it to you live. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And there you are. You get a sense of just the hundreds of thousands of people who have packed into New York City Times Square. Right now, they're playing "Yellow Submarine." The crowd is singing along. It is a giant outdoor party, as only New York City can put on. Maybe I'm a little biased, being a lifelong New Yorker, but I think just about anyone in the crowd here tonight will agree with me on that.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Anderson Cooper, live from Times Square. We are counting down to the New York, that big ball from the top of the building is going to drop down at the stroke of midnight. And what a moment that's going to be.

We'll, of course, bring that to you live. We're also going to take you around the country to celebrations breaking out all over. In a moment, we're going to go live to Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion, talk with the original playa himself to find out he's -- how he is ringing in the new year. I don't know, maybe he's going to bring some of his girlfriends with him. I don't know -- I'm not sure how many there are at the last count. I think he said six or seven.

We're going to keep it clean, though. It's going to be appropriate for television viewing. I mean, don't worry.

And fear not, Gen X'ers or maybe it's Gen Y'ers, anyway, we have not forgotten you. We have still got an eye on Chicago where The Flaming Lips, as well as the White Stripes are holding court over their indie rock legions tonight. That's a live shot right there of the concert. We're going to check back in and hear a performance from The Flaming Lips in just a little bit.

And the crowd here in Times Square, getting larger and larger, as we get closer and closer to midnight. Let's check in with our buddy, Jason Carroll, down in the crowd -- Jason?

CARROLL: Hey, Anderson, I love this crowd down here. The people are fantastic. There is one recent survey that just came out that said 43 percent of people believe they're going to get a kiss on New Year's Eve. I think the number out here is a little bit higher than that.

We're talking about the traditional New Year's Eve smooch. What are you guys going to do? Are you going to do it on New Year's Eve?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, definitely.

CARROLL: You're going to do it at midnight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CARROLL: Just a quick smooch?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A bit longer than...

CARROLL: Maybe a bit longer. There's a couple down here, Anderson, I want to introduce you to. We've spotted these two kissing all night long. The ball hasn't even dropped and you too have been at all night long. So I assume at midnight, you're going to be at it again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.

CARROLL: Practice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Practice makes perfect.

CARROLL: Practice makes perfect. I'm a believer in that, my man, that's for sure. Let's go down here. I've got this beautiful young lady here, single. I'm wondering about you. Who's going to give you your New Year's Eve smooch?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mom.

CARROLL: Her mom. Her mom protecting her, Anderson, from lecherous reporters. It's very good -- and her dad. Even better, even better. But it's good to have a kiss from your mom, though, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course.

CARROLL: Right, good. You can get one from me, though. There you go. One kiss from me, approved by mom. Approved by mom, Anderson, I want you to know for the single people out here who are looking for that holiday smooch.

I want to turn it back over to you.

COOPER: All right, Jason, nice to see that Jason Carroll himself is getting into the spirit. A lot of people to kiss here tonight.

With all the talk of resolutions, of course, and fresh starts, we don't want to overlook the pessimists, the naysayers, or the nattering nabobs of negativism out there. After all, the new year belongs to you as well, which is why we asked Ben Stein, author of "How to Ruin Your Life" series to join us. And we asked him whether he has an suggested resolutions for people who want a bad new year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BEN STEIN, AUTHOR, HOW TO RUIN YOUR LIFE: Well, first of all, don't learn any useful skills. Don't bother to think that anybody else's life is important. Convince yourself you're the center of the universe, that God went around on vacation and left you in charge. Borrow money from your friends and don't repay it. Don't believe that your susceptible to the law of averages. Gamble with money. Eat and drink and smoke and (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

But the best rule of all for ruining your life, have a romantic relationship with someone with a lot of personal problems and believe in your heart you can change him by nagging him. That is guaranteed to ruin your life.

COOPER: There are a lot of people running for office in this coming year. They can ruin their lives very easily. How about for politicians?

STEIN: Well, I tell you, if you're a Democrat running for president, say that it doesn't matter if they captured Saddam Hussein, that's a good way to ruin your...

COOPER: I heard that somewhere, I think.

STEIN: Yes, that's a good way to ruin your political life. I'd say if you're a candidate running for president, make fun of Southerners. And say that you're a big civil rights star because you have African-American roommates at Yale University. That's another way to ruin your political life.

COOPER: All right, well, so you're talking about Democrats ruining their political lives. How can Republicans ruin their political lives?

STEIN: I tell you if they don't get behind Bush, if they let the party fracture and break itself up like it did in 1964, or -- and again in '76, that could ruin their political lives.

COOPER: What are you going to do -- or do you have any New Year's resolutions this year?

STEIN: I'm going to do the one I said. I'm going to eat and drink and smoke, not just get -- I'm not going to smoke, but I am convinced that I can eat as much as I want and it's going to make my life any shorter, but it'll make it a lot less happy if I don't eat as much as I want.

COOPER: There have been a lot of CEOs behaving badly in the last year. Is this going to be -- are we going to see more of this today?

STEIN: Well, greed is a constant of human life. The only question is anybody going to be there to stop them? We've got Eliot Spitzer. He's the big star of the year 2003. But they'll keep behaving greedily. And they'll keep getting caught.

But maybe one out of 100 of them gets caught. And none of them goes to jail. They all have enough money to hire great lawyers. So why not do it? I mean, it's a system that rewards theft, unfortunately.

COOPER: Have you ever been in Times Square at New Year's Eve? And if not, try to describe it to people.

STEIN: There are a hell of a lot of people here. They've got on funny hats like this. They're all in a great mood. They're families here. It's a very upbeat mood here. If the terrorists could see how little they affected New York with their terror, and how the spirit of the people is back stronger than ever, they'd be very, very upset. This is a very happy city tonight.

COOPER: All right, well it's great to meet -- see you again, Ben.

STEIN: Good to see you.

COOPER: Happy New Year.

STEIN: Thank you. Very handsome suit.

COOPER: Well, yes, thank you. I try.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: No one quite like Ben Stein. As we promised, we're going to take you now to Chicago. One of the coolest bands around is live on stage. There was a good year for them. A win of Grammys, a tour with Beck. Ladies and gentlemen, The Flaming Lips.

(MUSIC)

COOPER: And back here live in New York Times Square, people waiting for that countdown, waiting for that ball to drop. Just a couple more minutes. What do you think's going on right now at the Playboy Mansion? A game of Scrabble maybe? We're going to find out for sure and check back in with that party.

Plus, we're going to look at what's in store for Martha Stewart in 2004. How about Hillary Clinton? We're going to meet a man who thinks he can tell you. That's later on.

And if you over do it tonight and regret it tomorrow, we got the cure for what ails you. We got a long night ahead of us. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And you're looking at a live picture of New York Times Square a sea of orange hats. That's the way it looks out here. Just a couple of hundred thousand people gathered, just waiting for that ball to drop in about 20 minutes from now.

We are, of course, going to bring that to you live, as well as New Year's celebrations around the country and around the world. But there is no place in New York, as you can see, even the police are having a good time here tonight. Now there are parties, of course. And then there are Playboy parties, but there is only one of Playboy Mansion New Year's Eve party. Let's go back to Los Angeles poolside with the host, Hugh Hefner, who has a couple of friends with him. Well, there we go.

Hugh, who have you got with you?

HEFNER: Well, I got the girlfriends with me. You want to introduce yourselves?

SHEILA: Hi, I'm Sheila.

ISABELLA: Isabella.

ZOE: Zoe.

HOLLY: I'm Holly.

BRIDGET: I'm Bridget.

HEFNER: And welcome from L.A.

COOPER: Now Hugh, I know at different phases of your life, different periods. You seem to be in a blond phase. Is that fair to say?

HEFNER: That is absolutely true. You know, Picasso had his blue period and his pink period. I'm in my blond period. I think it has to do with the impact that movies from the 1930s had on me. Jean Harlow, and Alice Fay, and the Busby Berkeley Chorus.

COOPER: Well, I don't know what the reason for it is, but if it works for you, that's all that matters.

HEFNER: It works for me.

COOPER: So what are you doing to celebrate tonight?

HEFNER: Well, we're celebrating obviously the coming year, but we're also celebrating Playboy's 50th anniversary. So this is a double celebration for us.

COOPER: Now are you going to get on the dance floor at some point tonight? Are you going to get on the grotto? What's going to go on?

HEFNER: Well, we'll certainly be out on the dance floor for sure. And the grotto is an option.

COOPER: Now you've been doing this New Year's party for a long time. As you said, it's the 50th anniversary of Playboy. But for God's sakes, you know, you're 77 years old. Shouldn't -- don't you just want to just like curl up in bed and go to sleep for New Year's Eve?

HEFNER: Well, eventually, but not right now.

COOPER: All right, well, and you certainly have good company to curl up with. So...

HEFNER: Yes.

COOPER: ...you (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Well, we wish you the best. We hope you have a good new year's, as well as all your lady friends.

HEFNER: Well, thank you. And very happy new year to you.

COOPER: All right, we love to talk to you, Hugh. Thanks very much. Good night.

So the question is, what would New Year's be without predictions? Here to help us out is a man who calls himself the Amazing Kreskin, Amazing Kreskin, nice to meet you.

AMAZING KRESKIN, MENTALIST: Can you imagine reading Hugh Hefner's thoughts? Now I've been reading people's thoughts all my life.

COOPER: Yes, I'm not sure...

KRESKIN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

COOPER: I don't think it'd be safe, though. So let's talk some predictions.

KRESKIN: All right. By the way, 11 years...

COOPER: Yes.

KRESKIN: ...at the pivotal point, real fast was a few years ago I'm on like New Year's. I said 11 days from now, 12 days from now, Bill Gates is going to step down. It's the only time in my life when I'm traveling in the country, your news people break in and say, "Mr. Bill Gates has just stepped down from Microsoft. Thank you, Kreskin."

COOPER: All right, so what do you see ahead for the year, for 2004? Let's talk politics.

KRESKIN: Well, of course, everybody knows that Bush is going to win. It takes no insight. But I think the interesting thing is Dean's not going to be -- he's not going to be part of the Democratic -- I don't think he's going to be huge.

COOPER: Really?

KRESKIN: But I also -- here, I feel very strongly. While Bush will win, before the election, three or four of his cabinet members will resign.

COOPER: Really?

KRESKIN: And I can only think in terms of two of them. Don't ask me why. COOPER: Now amazing Kreskin?

KRESKIN: Yes, Anderson?

COOPER: Or just Kreskin? Is it just Kreskin?

KRESKIN: When I read your thoughts, you can say -- and later on, I'm going to read -- by the way, on camera, I'm going to read his thoughts.

COOPER: Yes, we'll see about that. I got to call you. I'm sitting there last year you said it was going to be a bad year for Michael Jackson, but you also said it was going to be a big -- good year for Hawaiian music.

KRESKIN: And it will be.

COOPER: What happened?

KRESKIN: It will be.

COOPER: Oh, you still think next year will be a big year for Hawaiian music?

KRESKIN: Well, you know, I only claim to be 90 percent successful 10 percent of the time. My life is reading thoughts. The new music still will, I think, involve a kind of movement in circles, but I think it's going to involve wearing less clothing and even tattoos on the body.

Our music industry, as you know today, is in great trouble. We're down to very few instruments, including just the wrapping and a piece of wood of a stick.

COOPER: OK.

KRESKIN: That's how primitive.

COOPER: Who's it going to be a good year for in 2004, do you think?

KRESKIN: Really want me to tell you?

COOPER: Yes.

KRESKIN: And she's not going to go to prison. And I think Martha Stewart's going to become a folk hero. I swear to God.

COOPER: Yes?

KRESKIN: She will become a folk hero. Now as far as Hilton...

COOPER: Hero?

KRESKIN: Yes, ball hero.

COOPER: Paris Hilton's going to be a good ear for her?

KRESKIN: Wait, well let's -- you know Andy Warhol loves her because he promised a 15 minutes of fame.

COOPER: Yes, I think the 15 minutes is up.

KRESKIN: I -- oh, no. She's going to have 30 minutes of fame. But never say no about an award. As far as the Academy Awards, I do not think she's going to win for the next 70 years.

COOPER: I think that's a fair -- that's a good prediction.

KRESKIN: But the new trend will be...

COOPER: All right.

KRESKIN: ...people want to get in the limelight having videotapes made while they're having affairs. And who ever believe that they expect them to get into the public eye?

COOPER: I know, all right.

KRESKIN: You read my mind there?

COOPER: Amazing, I did.

KRESKIN: Later on, I'm going to read yours.

COOPER: All right. Amazing Kreskin, thank you very much. Oh, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). All right, Amazing Kreskin. Having quite a fun time in New Year's...the Amazing for Kreskin, whichever.

On this New Year's Eve, a kiss is still a kiss, but not all are created equally. We're going to take a look at the good, the bad, and those they were glad we weren't part of.

Plus, air of the dog, greasy food. We can do better than that. Hangover cures. You're going to thank us in the morning. We are live in Times Square, waiting for that ball to drop.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Some of the music for the past year. And you're looking live in Times Square. As you can see, a lot of people waiting very expectantly. About 12 minutes from now, that ball is going to drop. The fireworks are going to go off. Confetti, like you would not believe. And the outdoor parties, New Year's Eve live in Times Square, will go on and on. People are getting ready. There is a lot excitement. It is a lot of fun just to be here. And I hope it's fun for you at home, watching it on TV.

There are parties going on, as we said, around the country, around the world. Parties large and parties small. A small party in Elma, New York has drawn our attention.

Sandy Michinsky (ph), she's thrown a New Year's Eve party. It's also a going away party for her son, Jason, who is heading off to Army boot camp.

Kendis Gibson is at the party.

Hey, Kendis, how's it going?

GIBSON: It's going pretty well, Anderson. All I got to say is who needs Time Square when you can be partying in Elma, New York, population 4,000. Probably went up quite a bit.

Take a look around and you'll see the noisemakers are obviously working here at the party. The champagne is already being poured over there, as you can see. And the noisemakers have suddenly gone dead for a second. (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

About 60 of the 70 people we are here partying, celebrating Jason Nesci's...

CROWD: Nesci! Nesci!

GIBSON: ...graduation. You're heading off to the Army in five days. Are you nervous about it?

JASON NESCI: I'm not nervous at all. I signed up for it in February. And I'm sick of talking about it. It's time to do it. It's time to do it.

COOPER: Your mom wrote into us and said that she wanted to throw this party for you. So was she just as supportive when she first found out that you were going to enlist in the military?

NESCI: She was hesitant, but she's very supportive now. And I know she wouldn't want -- she couldn't get anything better than having CNN cover this. And I love her. And happy anniversary, mom!

GIBSON: It's kind of cool. You know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the number of presents that he's received and the number of guests. And Jason, you've kind of become like a local celebrity since your mom won this. Weren't you on the cover of the main newspaper here in Buffalo today?

NESCI: Cover the local news, yes.

GIBSON: Yes, and how many affiliates did you make?

NESCI: And a couple of local news stations also.

GIBSON: Yes. Does it make your head any bigger?

NESCI: Huh? Who me?

GIBSON: Jason, congratulations. Happy New Year to you. We're going to check back with these guys in a few minutes, closer to midnight.

Let's go back to you, Anderson. I know you're jealous.) COOPER: All right, this -- I am. I'm very jealous. Kendis Gibson, we'll check back in with you. Just on 10 minutes now. I'm just checking the clock. Don't want to miss it. 10 minutes until that ball drops. And the stroke of midnight is here.

Now after the stroke of midnight, what's going to happen here in Times Square with all the confetti, thousands of pounds of confetti being thrown, it's -- the wild pandemonium, you're going to hear that song. That song most sung in America on this night. You're going to hear it soon after the ball drops. But most of us, stumble our way through it. "Auld Lang Syne," of course.

Jeanne Moos reports on the song that sticks in your head, but not necessarily in your mouth.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Auld Lang Syne," so nostalgia inducing, it can leave you misty eyed, but it's a crying shame most folks can't get past the first line.

(SINGING)

MOOS: It's tough, because the lyrics are Scottish.

What we need is a translator, historian Duncan A. Bruce.

DUNCAN A. BRUCE, HISTORIAN: We'll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne. Now the cup of kindness is whiskey.

MOOS: Even in "It's a Wonderful Life," it seemed like the little girl was faking her way through that part. And what's "auld lang syne" mean anyway?

BRUCE: Auld lang syne means old long ago. More loosely, the good old days.

MOOS: It's a song about the bonds of friendships. Scottish poet Robert Burns collected the words more than two centuries ago from older songs. These days, there's even a polka version and a country version. Speaking of country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm the naked cowboy.

MOOS: Even the naked cowboy didn't known the words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take a cup of kindness, I don't remember that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should all?

MOOS: That's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your problems be forgotten?

MOOS: If you don't know the words, you can mumble or hum or keep your lips sealed with a kiss.

(SINGING)

MOOS: Now there's an acquaintance you won't forget.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: All right, so the naked cowboy's not that much of a singer. It's almost midnight, about eight minutes away. We can't tell with the crowd getting louder and louder.

When the clock hits midnight, we're going to show you all the excitement here in New York up and down the East coast. Jason Carroll's keeping an eye on the crowd right now in Times Square. They can feel it. It's this close to them.

John Zarrella is at a party in Key West, Florida, where a huge shoe is about to drop with a drag queen inside it. I'm not sure what that's about. But first, let's check in with Jason Carroll.

Jason, how's it look?

CARROLL: It's looking great down here, Anderson. You know, you're making friends out here. And I've been talking to a lot of people about New Year's Eve resolutions we did not keep this year. And the final moments of this year, tell me, New Year's resolution you did not keep this year?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Going to the gym.

CARROLL: Going to the gym, I think a lot of people are behind you on that one. What about you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually gave up on making them because I never kept them. So.

CARROLL: You know, but you know, maybe that's a good way to look at it. You know, just don't make them at all. But I know that you're the family man here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, just got to work on that better this year.

CARROLL: Try to work on the family stuff a little bit more?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CARROLL: That's good. That's good. How about you, my man?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did not eat healthy.

CARROLL: Didn't eat healthy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At all. CARROLL: Well, there's something to be said about some guilty pleasures. And you, what about you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kept all my New Year's resolutions.

CARROLL: You kept them all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kept them all.

CARROLL: Get out. You did not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kept them all. And my final New Year's resolution was to be at a major ball drop for this year. And baby, I'm here.

CARROLL: Baby, you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here, right?

CARROLL: Yes, you are here. Nothing like ending on a positive note, Anderson. New Year's resolution is to be right here. And he's right here. Back to you.

COOPER: All right, Jason Carroll. And the crowd -- as you can tell, the crowd is getting more and more happy, as we are just a few minutes away. You can see in the bottom of our screen right there, the time, how close we are to the new year.

Back to Key West, Florida now, where CNN's John Zarrella is in the self-proclaimed Conch Republic, where a shoe full of sushi -- well actually it's full of a drag queen named sushi is about to drop. We'll take a look.

ZARRELLA: Yes, Anderson. I'm with Sushi and I am with Colby and Kylee and three of my new friends here, the drag queen. Sushi and just about five, six minutes, going to be descending in that red slipper behind me.

You know, you don't need a party down in Key West or a special event. The drag queens perform here 365 days a year at the Bourbon Street Pub and at 801 Bourbon Street. So anyone who wants a treat can come down here any time of year and see this. But thousands of people here, ready to count down one of the biggest crowds they've ever had here, down in Key West for the great new year's celebration -- Anderson?

COOPER: All right. John Zarrella, thanks very much.

Let's go back now here to Times Square. The mayor of New York has gathered with Sitona Johnson. They are both going to press a button, which will drop the ball. There you see Cyndi Lauper, a number of military personnel, representatives from the Army and Marines and Airmen here as well. Let's listen in.

(SINGING)

(BALL DROPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy New Year!

(SINGING)

COOPER: Wow, what a city, what a night, what a country!

(MUSIC)

That's an engagement right there. Man proposing to his beloved. There's the ring. There's the kiss. A night like no other. And we listen into the song "America." And you see it, families and lovers and husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, kids and their parents, they are all here. Servicemen, Marines, Navy, Army, Air Force, police, firefighters, and a lot of reporters, and a lot of people very happy. All have gathered here to celebrate the new year.

Let's take a look at Baltimore, a live shot, where the fireworks are going off there. One more city bringing in the new year. You're looking at a live picture of the port of Baltimore, where the fireworks display is incredible. They're having fireworks in cities across the country at this moment. Fireworks here in New York, as well as here from the top of One Times Square. There are fireworks now going off. Now we're looking at Boston. Fireworks there.

Each city, celebrating in their own way. In every place, the message is the same, happy new year. Let's go back to Baltimore now, where the fireworks still continue. The city in the background, an amazing picture from WJZ.

We've already seen new year rung in in cities around the world. Now here on the East coast of America. There on the left side of your screen, you see the crowd still gathered in Times Square New York. On the right, the scene in Baltimore where the fireworks continue of the port. A lot of kissing here in New York.

And you know, the New Year's here in New York where the ball has dropped, as it just has in Times Square, there you see boyfriend and girlfriend or maybe husband and wife, kissing.

But in Florida, in Key West, you know the new year is here when a giant eight foot high red high heel shoe with a drag queen inside has dropped from a gay bar. It is a new year's eve tradition in Key West. Here it is. Here's what it looked like.

As you can see, it's not quite as well orchestrated, perhaps, as some of the other events. I'm not even sure the shoe dropped, frankly, but that apparently is a drag performer who -- looks like she's about to drop, even if the shoe isn't.

Let's get some crowd reactions to the ball drop here in New York's Times Square. Jason Carroll is with some partygoers -- Jason?

CARROLL: Hey, Anderson, I got to tell you, it was a wonderful moment (UNINTELLIGIBLE.) The confetti was flying. People hugging each other. I'm down here now with a few of my -- thousands of my closest friends. These guys from Iowa. How did it feel when the ball dropped? What was it like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, baby, it was the best thing I've ever felt in my life! I love this guy! I love this guy!

CARROLL: Why does that always happen to me? Why? Why? You poor thing. You've been down here. She's from Connecticut. So around here with these guys from Iowa.

How's it been for you all night?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been awesome.

CARROLL: Was it nice to see the ball drop, though?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CARROLL: It was worth it, wasn't it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it was, yes, yes.

CARROLL: How about for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Awesome.

CARROLL: Awesome. Just one word?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

CARROLL: That's it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's all I can say.

CARROLL: It was awesome, I agree with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I say happy new year from Texas?

CARROLL: Yes, you can say happy new year from Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, from Texas.

CARROLL: From Texas, from Iowa, Connecticut. And to you, Anderson, happy new year.

COOPER: And to you as well, Jason and to all the people who gathered here in New York's Times Square. And the party continues here.

For me, the highlight of the evening so far has been hearing "America, the Beautiful" played over the loud speakers. But also before the ball dropping, hear the crowd sing "Proud to be an American." Literally, you heard the entire crowd singing it. And a lot of people, I think, got goosebumps here perhaps at home as well.

Let's check back in with the small party that's going on in Elma, New York. Kendis Gibson is there. Kendis, how's the party there?

GIBSON: Well, Anderson, I'm kind of disappointed because I haven't gotten the sort of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that Jason got a little earlier today (UNINTELLIGIBLE) party. But these folks, if you could have seen them at midnight just kind of lit up this place as much as they can here, as they lodged in Elma, New York.

Take a look at the video at when the countdown took place. This place really erupted. We only have about 60 or 70 people here, but they all pretty much started screaming as you mentioned. The party is for this guy here, Jason Nesci. And he's still with us. Still alert.

And Jason, how was it when midnight came and, you know you had all of your friends around you, you're going into the Army on Monday. What kind of emotions did you go through?

NESCI: I got the best people in the world surrounded around me tonight. And the best possible opportunity with CNN covering it nationwide. Thank you. And this is awesome. This is the best thing ever. Thank you.

GIBSON: Well, awesome. And again, you're starting January 5th. You're going to go into what?

NESCI: I'm stepping out January 5th to Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the Infantry. We're going to take care of it for (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

GIBSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE.) Anderson, we're going to throw it back to you, where I think you're probably jealous of the party crowd here. These guys sound a lot louder than the folks (UNINTELLIGIBLE.)

COOPER: Yes, all right. Kendis Gibson, thanks very much. Here, Jason, that a young man going to be going into the Army on Monday. You hear a lot of people in the crowd here tonight talking their thoughts with servicemen and women who are overseas in various countries in Afghanistan, and Iran, and elsewhere. Our thoughts, of course, are with them as well. And we hope that they have a happy and safe new year.

We're going to be right back. The partying continues here, as we continue to be live from New York's Times Square. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back to New York's Times Square, where as you can see, the crowds have still gathered still partying like it's, well like it's 2004. They are. And they were glad to see it. A couple of hundred thousand people here at least. Authorities expected as many as 750,000.

And the crowd was all ages. As you can see, a little boy right there, really excited to be here. Tall people, young and old, men and women, mothers and their wives, a lot of family. This is a live shot right now from Baltimore. The fireworks are continuing. Amazing firework display that our affiliate WJZ is bringing us. Just an amazing fireworks of the Baltimore Harbor. The city is lit up. And it looks just beautiful. Let's listen in.

It is just an amazing, amazing site here. And there have been fireworks in many cities across the country. But of course, it is still a couple -- a lot of cities, a lot of U.S. go waiting for New Year's to come. Chicago, of course, about us and well, about 43 minutes away. The Midwest as well. New Orleans as well. St. Louis as well. So many great cities still to welcome in the new year.

And of course on the West Coast as well, in Los Angeles, so many places, Washington state, waiting for their chance to ring in the year.

One place we were visiting earlier, Key West, Florida in the self-proclaimed Conch Republic. John Zarrella is at a very unique celebration, very unique to Key West. I think it's fair to say. Let's check in with him and one of his new friends -- John?

ZARRELLA: Anderson, I never thought I'd bring in 2004 with the drag queens of Key West, but it's been a wonderful event down here. Sushi, we lost Sushi in the crowd. Made it down -- out of the shoe and down under the street, and then was carried off by some of her friends.

You know, this is only one of three events here in Key West tonight. Over at Sloppy Joe's, a conch shell was lowered at the stroke of midnight. And fitting for Key West, a pirate wench was lowered from a scooter over at a marina.

But I have to tell you, there was no event probably anywhere in the country like the one we had here. Right, Colby?

COLBY: Absolutely. Delicious.

ZARRELLA: You've got anything to say to Anderson?

COLBY: Happy New Year's, honey. Happy New Year.

ZARRELLA: Anderson, from us to you and everyone else, happy new year from Key West.

COOPER: Now John, I got to tell you, at first I thought you were with Joan Rivers. I honestly -- maybe it's -- I don't know.

ZARRELLA: He said he thought I was with Joan Rivers.

COLBY: Oh, yes, I love that. I love that. We love her on QVC, honey. She's my favorite entertainer. Yes.

COOPER: I'm sure she is. All right. So -- now John, do you honestly claim -- John, do you honestly claim this is the first time -- you are honestly are claiming that this is the first time you spent New Year's Eve with a drag queen? ZARRELLA: Listen, I swear this is the first time I've spent New Year's Even with a drag queen. He's asking me and I said, yes, it's true. Colby, the drag queen. And this is my first. I swear, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. All right, John Zarrella, this is a live shot you're going to want to put on your reel. All right, John, thanks very much. A great time they are having in Key West. Let's hope John Zarrella makes it home safely.

Jason Carroll is down here amidst our crowd. Jason, how's it going? Hardcore partygoers still hanging around, right?

CARROLL: Yes, you know how it is, Anderson. You turn the music off. That's the key for you to go home, but not with these people. They still want to stay, still want to party a little bit more. Look, these guys came in from New Zealand.

How was it for you when the ball dropped?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it was fantastic. It was really amazing.

CARROLL: This guy's telling his friends on TV, look mom, I'm on TV. I'm TV. I want to come down to these girls. These from California, my home state. Look at this. I mean, they are working the look, Anderson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Working the look. We're working.

CARROLL: How is it for you here on New Year's Eve?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was incredible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Awesome. It was way better than expected.

CARROLL: Why was it way better than expected?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just so much better to be live than like watching it on TV in the livingroom. I mean, come on. This is incredible.

CARROLL: You know, we are CNN. We do like live TV, do we not? I wanted to make my way down to these people. Excuse me. Excuse me. Because these guys look like they're up to no good. I looked down here and said no good, no good these guys down here.

How's your night been so far? It's...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely unbelievable. And there's no where to be anywhere on the planet other than New York right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Best city in the world. We're showing terrorists what a good night can be.

CARROLL: I agree with you. Totally agree. Party still continues down here, Anderson. The music is off, but the party is still on. Back to you.

COOPER: All right, Jason Carroll, thanks. We'll check in with you in a little bit.

I should point out now, this is my second year anchoring New Year's Eve coverage for CNN. I'm hoping it's the start of a new tradition, like the legendary Dick Clark, who's hosted his New Year's Eve program since the mid 1830s.

Of course back then, it was called "Goodman Clark's Toe Tapping, Knee Slapping, New Year's Jamboree." You may not have known that, but that's what I've heard.

As an egotistical news anchor, however, I worry about what I'm going to look like years from now, if I do indeed follow in Dick Clark's footsteps. Thanks to computer imaging technology, we're able to take a look. Let's take a look right now.

Oh, there we go. Glad to say that by 2004, not much will have changed. But by 2024, as you can see, well, I'll be well into my 50s. And if I keep going the way Dick Clark has, by 2084, the ravages of time will leave me looking exactly the way I do now. Man, those computer assimilations are chilling, chilling.

Still ahead, the low tech version of fireworks, celebrating 2004 with confetti. And there was a lot of it tonight. That's the clean- up crew. We're going to talk to them about the job they have ahead of them. Are they doing like a Rockettes line? That's what it looks like. Oh, well. Only in New York.

Plus, what's the best way to avoid a New Year's hangover? Abstinence, of course. But don't worry, in case that's not an option, we got some other thoughts. Stay with us. We will be right back live from Times Square.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: OK. We have officially rung in the New Year here in New York. And some revelers might be thinking of calling it a night. But for the people with the job of cleaning up an estimated 25 tons of mess in Times Square, the night has not even begun. The New York City Sanitation Department's going to be getting help from a crew provided by the Times Square Alliance. Robert Esposito is the vice president of operations. He is with me now.

Happy new year. Thanks.

ROBERT ESPOSITO, NY CITY SANITATION DEPT.: Happy New Year to you.

COOPER: So 25 tons of garbage, how long is it going to take?

ESPOSITO: Well, actually, you come back here tomorrow morning around 10:00, 10:30, and you're going to see that the city's department of sanitation, with a little bit of help from us, will have the street. You wouldn't believe there were this many people here and it's clean.

COOPER: So what's the weirdest thing you all have ever found?

ESPOSITO: Oh, during the millennium celebration, our crew came out and cleaned up. And we found a set of kilts. Not one kilt, two kilts.

COOPER: Two kilts?

ESPOSITO: Two kilts.

COOPER: What happened to the people who were wearing the kilts?

ESPOSITO: That's a good question. We'll still looking for them. They must have had a fun time if they took out their kilts. Yes, and it was a cold New Year's Eve. So...

COOPER: Yes?

ESPOSITO: Yes.

COOPER: All right, I'm not even going to -- let's not pursue that. So by tomorrow morning though, you think by 10:00, you think it'll all be cleaned up?

ESPOSITO: Pretty much so. What we're going to do is use leaf blowers, push everything into the street. Sanitation will come with their mechanical brooms. And that's how we'll do it.

COOPER: Now we're seeing a video here of some of your workers doing a dance. What's that about?

ESPOSITO: Yes.

COOPER: Is that a tradition?

ESPOSITO: It's something that started a few years ago, an impromptu celebration when they start playing, "New York, New York." And they wait for this. Everybody's energies very high, as you can see right there.

COOPER: Well, it's great to see. And you do a great job, as you do all your work. And we appreciate you joining us.

ESPOSITO: I'm glad it was a great New Year's Eve.

COOPER: It was. It was a great New Year's Eve.

ESPOSITO: Yes, thank you. Thank you very much.

COOPER: Thank you very much. And it certainly was a great New Year's Eve.

Well, of course, the easiest way to cure a hangover is to take things easy tonight. If you're not going to take it easy, at least take a taxi home. Or better yet, shack up with someone who has a car. So the ball has dropped, the confetti's fallen, the crowds are moving on. It has been said too many times tonight already, but truly there is no place like Times Square on New Year's Eve. It is loud. It is crazy. It is wonderful, just like this great city of ours. Loud, crazy, but always wonderful.

The new year stretches out before us, full of possibilities, full of hope. For all of us at CNN, I want to wish you a great night and a very happy and healthy new year.

In the next hour, I'll bring you the most dramatic moments of 2003, as seen through the eyes of CNN correspondents around the globe. Stay with us for that. We'll be right back.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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